How to prevent skin cancer

  • Love Your Linens

If you’re lucky enough to hop into a boat this summer, instead of donning that gorgeous bikini, think about covering your gorgeous skin.  Wear protective clothing that is lightweight, loose-fitting, and tightly woven.  Organic linens and cottons in light shades can feel wonderful against your skin even in extreme heat.  Add to the ensemble sun glasses with medium to dark lenses and a wide-brimmed hat and you’re good to go!

Note: Be aware that the sun’s rays can reach you even through clothing.  So, if you must be outdoors for extended periods of time, apply sunscreen before getting dressed.

  • Timing Is Everything

The sun’s rays are at their most potent between the hours of 11am and 4pm.  If you can, plan your activities around these times or minimize your time spent outdoors during these peak hours.  If you must be out during these hours, seek shade under an oak tree or big umbrella, and most important, apply sunscreen.

According to M. Sara Rosenthal, Ph.D., in her book, Stopping Cancer at the Source, “many of us don’t even understand sunscreen or how to apply it properly.  And sunscreen is crucial.  In fact, some have estimated that if sunscreen is used regularly in the first eighteen years of life, the lifetime risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer would be reduced by an impressive 78 percent.”  That said, it is never too late to become sunscreen savvy and put your newfound savvy knowledge to practice.  First, purchase a sunscreen that is natural and free of chemicals.  Seek out the ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.  These ingredients protect against UVA and UVB rays without harmful side effects.  Look for “broad spectrum” on the label which means the sunscreen offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays and contains an SPF of at least 15.  Apply your screen 20 minutes before going out and reapply approximately every 2 hours.  If you are swimming, sweating, or showering, of course reapply again.  And make sure if you’re wearing little covering, such as a bikini at the beach, enlist a friend to help you cover those hard-to-reach places.

  • Check It Out

One of the smartest preventative measures you can take is to get regular checkups.  This is crucial as most skin cancers are curable if discovered in the early stages.  Knowing your skin, so that you notice any changes is essential.  Seek medical attention if you note any of the following: birthmarks or moles which change color, size, or shape; new growths on the skin, patches of skin that swell, itch, bleed, ooze, or become red and bumpy; sores that do not heal.

  • Eat For Longevity

Now for the good stuff!  There are plenty of preventative measures we can take in the comfort of our own homes all year round to prevent cancerous cells from forming.  First off, the proper diet can do us a world of good, and can even enable our bodies to stave off the dreaded c word altogether.  Eat a high fiber diet with adequate amounts of organic fruits and vegetables.  These foods are great sources of vitamins, minerals, and invaluable phytonutrients which are believed to have anticancer properties.  Foods that are loaded with antioxidants are also necessary because they have anti-inflammatory properties and inflammation has been linked to squamous cell carcinoma.  Foods which contain vitamin C and beta carotene, such as carrots, leafy greens, broccoli, apples, nuts and seeds, and olive oil all have anti-inflammatory effects.  A potent antioxidant found in grapes and berries called resveratrol can keep skin cancer cells from proliferating.  Add smoothies to your morning routine and pack them with organic yogurt, berries and flaxseed.  Whole grains are also necessary elements in the anticancer diet.  They too are loaded with antioxidants among other nutrients including lignas, phenolic acid, and other phytochemicals.  Include organic quinoa, couscous, millet, barley, and rye in your diet.  Beneficial beans have complex carbohydrates and vitamins.  They are also non-animal sources of protein and contain fiber just as whole grains do.  When possible, avoid sugar and saturated, hydrogenated, and partially hydrogenated fats and oils as these substances foster a toxic internal environment.  Steer clear of processed food, fast food, and foods with additives or artificial ingredients.  According to Ayurvedic medicine, even avoiding leftovers can help fight the battle against all kinds of cancers because older foods lose their life force and vitality and become more difficult to digest.

  • Nutritional and Herbal Supplements

Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that neutralizes several of the most damaging free radicals and also reactivates other antioxidants.  An added plus to alpha-lipoic acid is that is both lipid- and water-soluble, which means that it can go nearly anywhere in the body.  This is a characteristic to other antioxidants.  Flaxseed and Fish Oils are essential oils necessary in maintaining healthy skin.  Vitamin C is one of the most effective antioxidants that promotes healing by boosting the immune system.  It also helps produce collagen, a key skin component.  Any good antioxidant combination formula that supplies 200 micrograms of selenium daily is beneficial because again, antioxidants help protect against potentially cancerous causing free radicals.  Pine bark and grapeseed extracts are also examples of good antioxidants.  Coenzyme Q 10 is a powerful antioxidant which is hoped to have some success in fighting cancerous activity.

Red Clover is an effective blood cleanser.  In order for tumors to grow, they need a blood supply, so they send out chemical messages that induce the body to grow new blood vessels into and around them, a process referred to as antiogenesis.  Red clover contains genistein which is believed to have an antiangiogenic effect.  Taking milk thistle on a daily basis is another good idea as it an amazing detoxifying agent and gives the liver, our detoxifying organ much support.  Research had shown that cat’s claw can kill cancerous cells without doing damage to normal ones.

  • Spice Things Up

There is also a magical herb believed by the long tradition of Ayurvedic medicine to have a number of anti-cancer properties.  Turmeric soothes the cells, stimulates the proper enzymes, and protects the intelligence of the cell’s DNA.  Indian households have been cooking with this healing spice for over 5,000 years, adding it to their veggies, lentils, and legumes.  Westerners have proven its health benefits by pointing to its star ingredient curcumin, which abounds with cure-all properties.  Because turmeric is a powerful antioxidant, it has the ability to eat away free radicals.  It also stimulates glutathione S-transferase, a cancer protecting, detoxifying enzyme.  When applied as a topical application, turmeric can inhibit skin tumor promotion.  Like  other antioxidants, tumeric has anti-inflammatory properties which help block the growth of cancerous cells as well.  So, don’t hesitate to start cooking up those curries this summer, and always.

  • Sip Your Green

Long regarded by ancient cultures as a powerful proponent in fostering good health, green tea is presently being considered a possible cancer preventative and even an aspect of cancer treatment.  This is so due to its many amazing healing properties.  Green tea is rich in flavonoids with antioxidant and anti-allergen activity.  It also combats free radical damage to protect against degenerative disease and boosts enzyme production in the body.  Its properties also include antiviral, antibacterial, and antibiotic properties.  National Cancer Institute studies are investigating the protective effects of a pill form of green tea against sun-induced skin damage.  Another study is investigating the topical application of green tea in shrinking precancerous skin changes.

It’s never too late to start protecting your precious skin.  Always use a good sunscreen regularly, but don’t let that give you a false sense of security.  And don’t count on a suntan or a naturally dark skin tone to protect you.  It is true, that light colored skin burns more easily and lighter skinned individuals are more prone to developing skin cancer, all shades of skin are subject to sun damage.  Moreover, sun damage is cumulative.  While you may not see its effects immediately, they may show up at some later date in the form of skin cancer.  That said, take advantage of those summer festivals in the sun and be good to your skin.

Advertisements

Herbs for weight loss, part 2

Licorice root is a flavorful herb that has been used in food and medicinal remedies

for thousands of years.Also known as “sweet root,” licorice root contains a compound

that is about 50 times sweeter than sugar. It is known to satisfy cravings for sweets

and lessen habitual snacking. Eat 1 to 2 sticks a day. Excessive use can raise blood pressure.

Mixing with diuretics may cause potassium depletion and lead to weakness,

muscle pain and paralysis. Mixing with heart medications may cause irregular heart beat or cardiac arrest.

Psyllium is a gentle bulking laxative which contains mucilage to

build mass in the digestive tract and push waste out. It is also

said to reduce feelings of hunger by producing feelings of

fullness. Take 1 tsp. of husk or seed powder dissolved in 2

cups of water or juice 2 to 3 times a day.

It must be consumed with 6 to 8 glasses of water a day or severe

constipation will result. May cause stomach upset, gas, bloating.

Do not use if pregnant or have asthma.  

Seaweed is a good source of trace minerals such as chromium

and iodine. It is also a natural thyroid stimulant and is

usually contained in kelp capsules or tablets. If you suspect

your weight problem is due to a thyroid problem, or if you currently

take any thyroid medication, check with a doctor before taking

kelp or seaweed. 

Dang Shen ginseng is the variety of ginseng often used

as an aid in weight loss. Dang shen works by increasing

metabolism and improving digestion, which helps change

fat into muscle. It is also considered both a strengthener

and an energizer, and is frequently recommended for fatigue,

loss of appetite, prolapsed organs and chronic diarrhea

that results from weakness.        

It is important to remember that herbs work slower but have

a more lasting effect on the body. It may take months to see

noticeable results. This is a good thing. We know that any short-cut

to weight loss is also short-lived. Be patient and pay attention to

your body. Try one or try them all, and see what works best for you.

Herbs for weight loss, part 1

In your quest to lose weight you must always remember to eating organic whole foods, including a variety of fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes while minimizing your intake of unhealthy fats, sugars, meat and processed foods. Once you have a balanced diet and healthy exercise regime you may want to supplement with a few of the following herbs that have been shown to promote healthy weight loss.

Studies have shown that chickweed can break down fat in the body. Chickweed tea has the added benefit of curbing cravings and aiding in digestion, important factors in weight loss. Adding burdock root to the tea will efficiently flush away the fat molecules that have been broken down by the chickweed. Burdock has laxative properties in addition to being a diuretic. It also improves fat metabolism. Simmer burdock root in water for about 20 minutes to brew a tea to drink between meals.

Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, which improves digestion, metabolism, and the overall fat burning process. It is said to be a “thermogenic chemical” which will help speed your metabolism and decrease your appetite. Cayenne pepper is one of the healthiest herbs around and should be one of the first natural remedies you should go to for naturally healthy weight loss.

Dandelion is a gentle diuretic, laxative and digestive aid that enhances fat metabolism, removes fatty acids and cholesterol from the bloodstream before they are stored in fat cells and restores minerals lost (when taking diuretcs). Eat fresh dandelion greens in a soups and salads. Dandelion is considered the safest of herbal diuretics; however, long-term use of any diuretic may cause electrolyte imbalance.

Green tea is an excellent, effective, and safe weight loss ingredient that has the ability to oxidize fat in the body.  It also has a wealth of antioxidants that are good for your heart.  Green tea is readily available and either can be consumed in its rawest form as a drink, or taken as a supplement.  Either way, this is one of the best herbs to lose weight with.  Additionally, for some people, it has also proven to increase their energy levels. Further research shows green tea extract and flavonoids are compounds that can change the way the body uses norepinephrine, a hormone that monitors how calories are burned. When flavonoids interact with other content of green tea extract, more calories are burned thus contributing to weight loss. Other materials that actively contributes to the weight loss is the compound catechin polyphenols. These compounds interact with other content in green tea extract for weight loss by fat burning and thermogenesis (a process of losing energy by daytime heat).

Gymnema sylvestre is a plant used in India and parts of Asia as a natural treatment for diabetes. The herb’s active ingredient, gymnemic acid, is extracted from leaves and roots, and helps to lower and balance blood sugar levels. The unique shape of gymnemic acid molecules are similar to that of glucose, allowing it to fill cell receptors in the lining the intestines, thereby preventing uptake of sugar molecules. In healthy adults gymnema sylvestre is believed to help curb sweet cravings. Though not a magic bullet, when taken with a high-carb meal or a meal high in sugar, it can aid the body by passing through sugars and making carbs available for burning, rather than turning these into fat stores. In this way it helps to build lean muscle mass.

Coffee or Yerba Mate?

Are you trying to cut back on the caffeine but continue to crave that
 little boost in the morning? Consider replacing the morning latte 
with a medicinal mate- the tasty and healthy beverage revered
by millions of South Americans.  While a coffee bean is oily 
and acidifying to the body, mate is a green leaf that is naturally 
caffeinated.   The national drink of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay,
yerba mate is known to eliminate fatigue, stimulate mental and 
physical activity, reduce stress, and boost immunity.  In Paraguay, 
it is used as a base in their medicinal system in which they mix
different herbal combinations to treat varying maladies… 

mate gourd and bombilla

Amino acids revealed

Amino acids help maintain our body’s optimal health and vitality

Amino acids are the “building blocks” of the body.  When protein is broken down through digestion, the result is 22 known amino acids.  Eight are essential, meaning they cannot be manufactured by the body.  The rest are non-essential, (can be manufactured by the body with proper nutrition.)

To understand just how vital amino acids are for our health, we must understand the importance of proteins.  Protein substances make up the muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, glands, nails and hair, and are essential for the growth, repair and healing of bones, tissues and cells.  Insufficient levels of the essential amino acids can dramatically interrupt the way our bodies work. For example, deficiencies of tyrosine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, and histidine can cause neurological problems and depression. Low levels of tryptophan also make us anxious and unable to sleep.

Amino acids are most abundant in protein foods, yet all foods contain some.  Animal foods such as beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, eggs, milk, and cheese are known as complete proteins and usually contain all eight essential amino acids.  Many vegetable proteins contain adequate levels of many of the essential acids, but may be low in one or two.  Grains and their germ coverings, legumes, nuts and seeds, and some vegetables fit into this category.

The importance of balancing the diet in order to obtain sufficient levels of all the essential amino acids cannot be overstated.  A diet containing a variety of wholesome foods is crucial.  If the complete proteins (stated above) are eaten daily, there is no need to worry about supplementing the diet or creating optimal food combinations.  However, most of us do not eat these foods daily and probably should not, as the over consumption of protein foods (especially meat and milk) can lead to disease.

Those of us who follow a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet need have less concern about combining foods than those of us who follow a vegan diet.  For those eating vegetarian diets, it is fairly easy to obtain a good protein balance from vegetables, grains, nuts, and legumes.  Eating beans or seeds with some sort of grain is the simplest way to obtain an adequate balance of proteins.  Often times, traditional food cultures have already solved the problem. (ie. South American black beans and rice; MiddleEastern, chickpeas and couscous).  According to Gabriel Cousins, M.D. in her book Conscious Eating, “the Max Planck Institute has found that the complete vegetarian proteins, those with all eight essential amino acids, are superior to, or at least equal to, animal proteins.  They showed that these complete proteins were found in various concentrations in almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, soybeans, buckwheat, peanuts, potatoes, all leafy greens, and most fruits.”

According to Diane Stein, however in Natural Healing Wisdom and Know-How: Useful Practices, Recipes, and Formulas for a Lifetime of Health, “amino acid deficiencies can occur from improper or imbalanced diet, long-term vegan or vegetarianism, or inability to properly assimilate protein via the digestive system.”

Paying attention to what we eat and how we combine our foods is the first step in preventing amino acid deficiency.  If there is worry that the diet is not giving the body all it needs, there is always supplementation.  Supplementing with amino acids have been known to help those suffering from degenerative diseases such as mental or nervous disorder, heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, epilepsy, anemia and herpes.  Amino acid supplements are available singly and in combinations.  It is always a good idea to consult with a physician to see which supplements, if any, are suitable for your particular needs.

Amino Acids

Essential:

Isoleucine

Leucine

Lysine

Methionine

Phenylalanine

Threonine

Tryptophan

Valine

Arginine

Histidine

Alanine

Asparagine

Aspartate

Cysteine

Glutamate

Glutamine

Glycine

Proline

Serine

Tyrosine

Pineapple for weight loss

fresh Hawaiian pineapple

I’ve been snacking on fresh pineapple lately (they are ripening in the garden just beyond my front door) and have noticed what a great snack and even dessert they are. After some thought, I’ve concluded that fresh pineapple, accessibly cut into chunks and kept in the refrigerator are an easy snack that curbs my cravings for other sugar-laden sweets. In turn, I would have to say raw pineapple is a great food for weight-loss.

A slice of pineapple contains abut 40 calories and no fat and is rich in water (nearly 186%) that will certainly stimulate you to go to the bathroom. It contains the enzyme bromelain -a natural anti-inflammatory agent that is good for your skin and muscles.

Be sure to eat fresh pineapple. Not the pineapple you get in a can that is pre-cut, sliced and stuck in syrup. In this form, most of the good things in a pineapple have been flushed out.

Fun Facts:

  • Pineapple provides quick energy, is easily digested and encourages regularity.
  • Fresh pineapple juice is a great alternative to water when it comes to re-hydrating and flushing your system.
  • It is quickly assimilated and provides energy.
  • Low in calories and free of fat.
  • Bite-size chunks fit in glass containers and serve as an easy snack to satisfy the sweet tooth in a healthy way
  • Pineapples contain Vitamin B1 which is said to help metabolize carbohydrates.

fresh Hawaiian pineapple

The Power of Dance and Movement

“The Power of Dance and Movement”

The fact that there has always been dance compels us to accept it as an old and deeply rooted human activity whose foundations reside in the nature of being human. It will continue as long as the rhythmic flow of energy operates, and until humans cease to respond to the force of life and the universe. As long as there is life, there will be dance.

-Margaret N. H’Doubler

For as long as I can remember, I have danced; for as long as I can recall, few things in life have brought me greater joy. My journey through movement began at the age of three, studying the Western styles of jazz, tap, and ballet. In the high school years I explored modern dance and my passion for creating an emotional picture inspired by the canvas of enchanting music. Years later, I found myself in New Orleans, steeped in the rituals of African Dance and the primitive beat of the drum. I also joined a samba troupe and samba danced down St. Charles Avenue during Mardi Gras. After an adventure in India, yoga became an integral part of my daily life. Presently, the intoxicating rhythms of Flamenco feed my soul and spirit every day.

Along my expansive and continuing journey through dance and movement, it has from an early age served as a powerful tool in my development and sense of self. It has provided me with a means to explore various cultures, traditions, and rituals that I may have not otherwise come to understand. It has helped maintain my physical health, and has become one of my most beloved means of spiritual practice, thereby enhancing my overall mental, emotional, and spiritual growth.  Whether a seasoned dancer or not, every one of us can benefit immensely from various forms of dance and movement.  May the following information inspire you to further explore the great joys of your body as a vehicle for self-expression and fulfillment.

Dance Therapy

Dance scholar Margaret N. H’Doubler, author of “Dance: A Creative Art Experience”, once said, “if all children in every school from their entrance until their graduation were given the opportunity to experience dance as a creative art, and if their dancing kept pace with their developing physical, mental, and spiritual needs, the enrichment of their adult life might reach beyond any results we can now contemplate.

Dance is an extremely potent tool in the development of self. Suzie Tortora, a dance therapist in Cold Spring, New York, observes, “from the beginning, each baby develops his or her own personal communicative dance to express how he or she perceives and experiences his or her surroundings.”  In the early years of one’s self development, it is through movement that young children discover the world. It is also through movement that they communicate with their surroundings and let the world know how they feel. Dance therapists can get a feel for a child’s experience by observing his or her nonverbal communication. In time, a therapist helps a child discover more varied movement, which eventually enhances and expands his or her repertoire. This, in turn, expands a child’s ability for self-expression in the world and enables greater interaction with others.  This approach can be highly beneficial for any and every child, regardless of their stage in emotional, mental, and physical development.

Dance Therapy is a powerful vehicle for mental, emotional, and physical healing. Based on the principle that body and mind are interrelated, dance movement psychotherapy is defined by the American Dance Therapy Association as “the psychotherapeutic use of movement as a process which furthers the emotional and physical integration of the individual.”  According to dance therapy, the qualities of movement and postural structure of an individual are a reflection of a person’s emotional expression. Suzie Tortora adds, “for me, the word dance has come to symbolize all nonverbal expression which has the potential to be communicative. The goal of my work-from individual psychotherapy sessions to parent-child counseling to teaching creative dance is to help the participants learn how their nonverbal actions accompany and add meaning to their verbalizations. Understanding the role movements and gestures play in our interactions facilitates greater awareness of self and others.”

Yoga

There are a myriad of mind-body practices to explore. Yoga asana is one of the most popular and beneficial forms of therapeutic movement, and one of my favorites. Asana is defined as “posture,” its literal meaning is seat.  Asanas are more than just stretching as they open the energy channels, chakras, and psychic centers of the body.  Yoga has served as a calming oasis in my own life for the past nine years and continues to teach me how to slow down, meditate, and  move my body in ways that other types of movement fail to explore. While traveling, yoga grounds and centers me. It is an ideal form of healing movement while traveling through life, literally and metaphorically, because it needs nothing but the body and the breath. Yoga helps me to connect with the spiritual world, as it has done for so many humans around the globe for thousands of years.

The benefits of yoga as a form of healing and expressive movement are great. From a physical aspect, yoga strengthens muscles, increases flexibility, improves endurance, and calms the mind and body. Yoga is a wonderful form of meditation in motion. It also focuses on the power of breath, which helps to maximize one’s inner energy source while allowing it to flow through the entire body, bringing much healing and a sense of calm.

Alexander Technique

Another life-enhancing form of movement therapy is the Alexander Technique. The basic teaching of the Alexander Technique is that when the neck muscles do not overwork, the head balances lightly at the top of the spine. As this relationship between the head and the spine is of critical importance to health, how we manage this relationship is directly related to the rest of the body. In fact, it determines the quality of the entire body’s coordination.

A teacher of the Alexander technique helps a person see what his/her movement style is, and how it fosters reoccurring problems like a bad back, chronic neck or shoulder pain, or any limitation in executing physical activities. By implementing the technique, students learn to rid the body of many harmful habits, heighten self-awareness, and use his/her own thought processes to restore poise to the body and graceful, natural movement-the way we were meant to move.

Pilates

The Pilates Method is a physical fitness system developed by Joseph Pilates in the 20th century. Joseph Pilates, a boxer, circus performer, and self-defense trainer of English detectives, was interned at a camp in Lancaster with other Germans as ‘enemy aliens’ during WWI.  It was here where h spent much of his time to further develop his exercise techniques.  Pilates called his method Contrology, referring to its emphasis on using the mind to control the muscles. Pilates focuses on the core postural muscles that are essential in keeping the body balanced and providing spinal support. The exercises also teach awareness of breath and alignment of the spine. They strengthen the deep torso muscles, which help to prevent and alleviate back pain. While following the method, one learns how to control body movement through a series of exercises (with names like swan or mermaid,) while keeping the mind focused on the task.

The method attracted the attention of dancers George Balanchine and Martha Graham, two legendary dancers and choreographers of the 20th century. Dancers are drawn to Pilates because of its deliberate movements, controlled breathing, and emphasis on alignment. These techniques are believed to improve strength and flexibility throughout the entire body without building bulky muscles. Research and theories in motor learning, biomechanics, and musculoskeletal physiology help support the phenomena and overall health benefits experienced by those who practice this particular therapeutic movement method.  These benefits include the developing of the deep muscles of the back and abdomen, the creation of length, strength, and flexibility in muscles, and the greater support given to the spine by the exercises which give awareness of neutral alignment of the spine and space between each vertebrae.

Feldenkrais

The Feldenkrais Method, another form of body movement, believes that the body is the primary vehicle for learning. With this particular approach practitioners help people to expand their repertoire of movements. The method also enhances awareness, improves function, and enables people to express themselves more fully. Through movement sequences that bring attention to the parts of the self that are often ignored, the technique addresses the question of how to facilitate the learning that is necessary for organizing the whole self and recovering excluded and unconsidered movement patterns or actions.

Feldenkrais is expressed in two main forms: Awareness Through Movement and Functional Integration. The first form is made up of verbally directed movement sequences presented primarily to groups of people in a classroom setting. Several hundred hours of Awareness Through Movement lessons are to be taken to achieve the best results. The lessons make one aware of his/her habitual neuromuscular patterns and rigidities and expand options for new ways of moving, while simultaneously improving efficiency and increasing sensitivity. Functional Integration is a hands-on form of tactile, kinesthetic communication. Through gentle touching and movement, a practitioner teaches a student how to move in more expanded motor patterns.

Gurdjieff Movements

The Gurdjieff Movements center around movement exercises and sacred dances developed by GI Gurdjieff.  The technique also focuses on inner practices of attention, sensing, breath, awareness, feeling, and mental imagery.  Patty Kane Horrigan, a teacher in the Gurdjieff style of movement therapy in NewYork reminds us that most of the population is not as aware of our bodies as we can and should be.  In reference to the Gurdjieff movements, she says that the movements were designed to keep us focused on just that-what the right hand and the left hand are actually doing.  “Many of the gestures are contradictory to what we expect-they’re not very fluid.  In fact, they’re immensely angular, they require divided attention.  Each part of the body may have a different tempo, and you’re doing them in a group where people are traveling in all sorts of directions.  There’s not time to do anything except be there and try to find a way to manage all the different elements.  If ever there was an activity that showed the uselessness of negative emotion or empty thinking, the movements are it.  You can’t waste a second on doubt, criticism, idle thoughts or any of the million other activities that go on inside our heads.”

She continues, “Making the efforts to do these movements can be humbling.  It doesn’t take long to see how little knowledge, let alone control we have on our own bodies.  But when we try, it can be glorious.  There’s something so powerful about experiencing the body we live in, about feeling its connection to the world.  Movements are ultimately a very emotional experience.  They open up feelings at a very different level.  These movements are part of a spiritual tradition that teaches that we work on so that we can ultimately work with and for others and can be of service to the universe.  But for those who are interested in that journey I can’t think of a better place to start than the body.”

Dance Ruminations

Trishki Doherty, a modern dancer explains how dance has enriched her life in boundless ways.  “Dance became a way for my deep inner self to speak and thus helped me establish my identity, a sense that I am someone, and this helped me transcend mental illness.” For forty years dance has played a center stage role in her life, and continues to each day.  On a physical level, Trishki notes that it has given her a strong body and a much straighter spine, as it cured her scoliosis to a point where it was no longer a major problem.  “Dance gave me good posture and a beautiful body (previously I had a very weak spine, and was “top heavy” and not in proportion.)  It has helped me have a strong and healthy body as I approach my elder years – probably helping me live longer and have a better quality of life.  Dance has also helped me appreciate all different kinds of music – for as I dance to different music, it seems to open up the channels to really hear and experience it.”

Jacques D’Amboise, a former principle dancer with the New York City Ballet and founder of the National Dance Institute once said, “It’s your pulse, it’s your heartbeat, it’s your breathing. It’s the rhythms of your life. It’s the expression in time and movement of happiness and joy and sadness and energy. It’s a venting of energy. It’s extraordinary, and that’s common to all cultures and it’s common to all individuals.”  Dance, like language, is found in all human societies. It is one of the only universal forms of expression. One of dance’s universalities is the use of the human body itself as a vehicle for self-expression and intercommunication. All dance is charged with power. It serves as an emblem of cultural identity, an expression of religious worship, an expression of cultural mores, and a medium of cultural fusion. Dance is a means of social order, and is perhaps the art form whose dynamics are most closely related to the dynamics of life. It is ever-changing, ever-flowing, with every body that moves, from one corner of the planet to the next.

I spoke with my flamenco teacher, Miel Castagna as to how flamenco dance has affected her life.  “When I think about how dance has enhanced my life, my mind becomes overcrowded with words. I think when you are a dancer, there is somehow no other option of how to be or what to be.  Dance IS your life.”  She explains that for seventeen years she has tried to get a “real” job and find a “normal” profession, but aside from becoming a mother, flamenco is the only thing that fills her heart with such complete and intuitive passion.

I agree. If I eliminated dance from my life, my existence would be less rich. I can even say it would feel like an integral part of myself had died.  I absolutely adore flamenco because of the utter amount of emotion it entails. It embodies sorrow, love, joy, honor, and even death. Like other forms of ethnic dance, the meaning behind the dance is paramount. It tells a story, a feeling, and often times translates an entire history of a particular culture.

The desire to know oneself and express one’s deepest feelings using the body is an incredibly humanistic, primal instinct, which crosses barriers of language.  When I am moving my body through a dance or through a yoga asana, I experience a divine sort of freedom: an ability to express myself from the heart, which awakens a natural intuition and a feeling of connection to the rhythms of the universe. Dance becomes prayer, and movement becomes life.

This piece was originally published in Chronogram magazine.

Previous Older Entries